Sports governance provides us a perfect sample of human behaviour at large. What is happening to this country’s status internationally, is also happening to this country’s sports with a chilling indistinguishability.
As Sri Lanka’s government leaders prepare vigorously to face an international challenge over the country’s human rights issues in Geneva early next month, Sri Lankan sports administrators led by the Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage are facing a serious challenge from another Swiss city Lausanne over the country’s sports governance.
Though the government has so far been successful in evading serious sanctions, despite the mounting international pressure over what is termed as lack of meaningful action, Sri Lanka’s sports may not enjoy much leniency or tolerance over their apparent reluctance to fall in line with international regulations governing sports.
An international ban is looming largely over Sri Lanka’s sports and unless the Sports Minister acts quickly, Sri Lanka will be confined to the wilderness and to sulk about lost opportunities.
Last year, the Sports Minister acted swiftly to get some drastic amendments to the Sri Lankan Sports Law passed in parliament. Though they hardly raised an eyebrow, the amendments were clearly designed to consolidate the political domination of Sri Lankan sports. It was not necessary to read between the lines to understand the design, as the new clauses that clearly points to political interference in sports were included in the new amendments in black and white, placing the minister outrageously on an almighty pedestal to control the country’s sports governance as well as sports finances.
These amendments to the Sports Law of 1973 were discussed in various forums while all sports associations were consulted in the process. But, true to the nature of our sports administrators, they simply failed to understand or chose to feign ignorance of the power new amendments were going to vest the sports minister with.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) which has been established on the ideals of sporting discipline and spirit does not allow sports governance beyond their established values and principles. To achieve this, they have created the famous Olympic Charter which includes a set of rules and guidelines for governing the Olympic movement.
The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOC), which is the local representative of the IOC however alerted their principals of the alarming changes in the new amendments to the Sri Lankan sports law that contravene the Olympic charter and provide for political interference in sports.
IOC immediately called the Sports Ministry officials and local NOC officials to their headquarters in Lausanne to discuss the problem and issued a media release after the meeting that the Sports Ministry had agreed to revise the Sri Lankan sports law to be consistent with the Olympic Charter.
Sri Lanka were given a grace period of six months to change the law to repel the clauses that leaves room for political interference in sports. Though the threat was veiled and subtle, it was not difficult to understand the consequences of a failure to do so.
We do not have to go far to find a similar case, as our powerful neighbour India were given a similar task and their failure resulted in a 14-month-long suspension which barred the country from international competitions till they addressed the matter and were finally readmitted to the Olympic movement last week.
Sri Lanka has to act fast and effectively. But true to our nature, the issue has now turned into a battle of egos between two powerful men - the Sports Minister and the NOC chief. If we go by the minister’s communiqué last week that he is not going to consider the proposals submitted by the NOC, detailing the Sports Law clauses that should be addressed, the reform measures have hit a wall.
The impasse would only lead to a suspension with the likelihood of threatening Sri Lanka’s eligibility to participate in the Incheon 2014 Asian Games starting on September 14 and also putting the hosting rights of Hambantota 2017 Youth Asian Games in danger.
The loss of powers conferred by sports law to the minister is definitely a defeat to the politics-centric Sri Lankan society. But it is by no means a personal defeat to the minister as he will not be in the hot seat forever. It can only hurt if the minister chooses to see the changes as a personal defeat.
For the good of Sri Lankan sports however, there is only one way forward, irrespective of emotions. Sri Lanka has to grit its teeth and change the sports laws to rid sports of politics. The result unless is international sporting isolation!